Flattening the Curve of Coronavirus Emotions

A beautiful beach we stumbled on recently during one of our government-approved family exercise periods. We made sure not to linger – beaches are closed. After that day, it was back to two days of not being allowed to leave the boat.

It’s week who knows of lockdown, and I find myself struggling with expectations.

My social media feed is a constant bipolar stream of presenting this perfect picture of quarantine creativity and efficiency, and posting platitudes that it’s okay if you’re drinking wine straight from the bottle while slumped in the corner.

“It’s okay to not be okay.” I hear that one a lot. I tell myself that one a lot. I don’t believe it a lot of the time. There’s this constant pressure to look on the bright side of things, don’t complain, others have it far worse than you, take this time and make the most of it.

Fellow cruisers half-jokingly said early on, “If the never-ending to-do list of boat projects isn’t finally done by the end of this lockdown, then what are we doing?”

Surviving? Navigating a pandemic?

A friend of mine posted the other day that her children completed their homeschooling curriculum for the year months early. What else was there to do while staying on board but teach?

Another friend posted that with all of her newfound free time, she finally reupholstered the cushions in her cockpit.

I’m going to learn to play guitar! I’m finally going to write that book! I’m going to teach my child how to play chess! Somehow, the “Netflix and Chill” chapter of the pandemic ended abruptly, and we’re stuck in the “Make it Count” chapter.

I’m tired. I’m tired of not really knowing what’s going on. I’m tired of living week to week, waiting to see what new restrictions might be put in place. I’m tired of watching income sources dwindle. I’m tired of making the most of every minute. I’m tired of trying to find the silver lining.

Anyone else?

It’s okay to not be okay, as long as you’re not okay, quietly. Minimize the negativity. Trivialize it. Ignore it. Definitely don’t post it, unless it’s a silly meme – nobody wants to read about it.

I’ve gone through extreme ups and downs during this pandemic. Some days, I feel really on top of my game. Boatschooling is moving along well, we’re keeping spirits up, getting important things done and celebrating family time. And some days, I sit there, unmotivated, dishes piling up in the galley.

We briefly stopped by s/v Alchemy on one of our shopping days. It was Alex’s birthday – she took this lovely picture from the transom of their boat. We sang to her from afar, then continued on our way to shore to get provisions. They are anchored about five minutes away, and yet, it was the second time we’d seen them in six weeks.

On the days when we are allowed to go ashore, I’m completely recharged – so excited to just be OUT! The fresh air, the exercise, the brief face-mask-to-face-mask exchanges with other human beings, are salves to my soul. And then we are locked down again, unable to so much as dinghy around our anchorage. On the days when we are not restricted from movement, I see my friends here from a socially acceptable distance, enjoying shouty chats when we pass by their boats on our way to shore. We smile, we joke, we laugh, and we move on. And then we are back to relying on technology to connect, on Zoom calls plagued with the challenges of low bandwidth and my inability to not be awkward on video.

Life, right now, is a tease.

It’s true – as cruisers, we are predisposed to be self-sufficient. We make our own power, our own water. We often provision the boat for weeks, or even months, anyway, and there are definitely chapters during a normal season when we head for isolated bays and completely unplug.

“This must be easier for you – you do this anyway,” was a comment I heard recently.

But choice makes all the difference. It’s a completely different mindset, when you choose isolation, rather than when you are forced (for a completely understandable reason, of course). Another difference is time – when you make the decision to be on your own for a week, knowing you’ll then head back to civilization.

Instead, we are in lockdown with no specified end date. We are completely unable to plan even two weeks out. I’ve also realized that we are in a place with one of the strictest lockdowns in the Caribbean. We have been sheltering in place for seven weeks, combining the lockdown and our quarantine when I returned from the States, and we still aren’t even allowed on shore more than three or four days a week.

I wish for the return of the before time, knowing that it will never come. There will be a new normal of land life, just like quarantine life has become the new normal. And cruising will look very different next season. Even when borders open, it will be a long, long time until boaters can move freely between island nations, checking in and out with ease – leading the very lifestyle we all planned and saved and sacrificed to achieve. If we can even afford it anymore.

Yes, I understand, I need to look on the bright side. I need to be grateful for the small things. I need to adjust to the new normal, again. I need to tell myself that this will all be okay, whatever “this” is. I’ve never answered “I don’t know” to more questions in my life, many from Claire.

One of my more motivated days on lockdown, doing a cardboard art project with Claire.

“When will the lockdown be over? When can I play with friends again? When can I go to the beach? When will I be able to do my ballet class? When will family be able to come visit us, or can we see them? When will I be able to go anywhere without having to wear a mask?”

I am the opposite of omniscient. I know nothing. I mean, can we just sit for a minute in the reality that our lives right now are giant snow globes and the flakes just keep spinning?

I find myself more tired at the end of these days than the days when we climbed waterfalls. The mental back and forth of it all is exhausting. And yet even now, I hesitate to post this. I question sharing it. In the back of my mind, there are those voices on repeat: “At least you didn’t get the virus. At least you are able to isolate with your husband and your child. At least you have beautiful views during lockdown.” And it’s all true! I see it all. I appreciate it all. This chapter is still, hard.

So what can you do? Each day, you do the best you can. Some days, you nail it, making gourmet meals for your family and fixing boat problems and teaching your kid to read and shaking up a tasty cocktail to watch the sunset.

And some days, you make a cup of coffee and crawl back under your sheets and spend hours scrolling through photos from just a few months ago, gasping at how crazy those people were for being so close together. And you make ramen for dinner.

Coronavirus and Cruising: Riding the wave (and flattening the curve) aboard Clarity

Not a bad quarantine view!

As I put together this post, I’ve already had to update it three times – the state of affairs is changing that quickly and constantly these days.

COVID-19 is affecting the entire world in some ways that are very similar, and in others that are unique. For those of us in the full-time cruising community, it’s presenting unforeseen challenges, being foreigners in foreign waters.

For us on Clarity, March was already a crazy month before the virus started taking over the news cycle and dominating social media. Aaron flew back home to Michigan early in the month due to a death in the family. A week later, he returned, and I prepared to fly to Chicago two days later to have a massive kidney stone removed. It was a health issue I tried for months to get sorted in Grenada, to no avail. The procedures I required just weren’t available here.

As I flew from Grenada to Miami, and then Miami to Chicago, Coronavirus was picking up steam. I was asked at Passport Control in Miami if I had recently traveled to China, and with a prompt NO, I was allowed through. Two days after I arrived in Chicago, my outpatient surgery was performed, and as I started to recover, the world changed. Rapidly. I followed the headlines as the lockdown in Italy was covered and the death count rose. Back in Grenada, an advisory was issued stating that foreigners traveling from China, South Korea, Iran, Italy and Germany would be denied entry. As the virus extended its reach to other countries, I watched as the reported cases in the United States grew.

Social distancing became the new normal, then was quickly replaced by “Shelter in Place” ordinances. As I continued to recover, with one small but necessary procedure scheduled for two weeks after the initial surgery, I watched as businesses in the United States shut down, schools were closed, restaurants changed to To-Go outlets. And a week and a half after I arrived, Grenada added the United States to its travel advisory list. I had two days before the new stipulation would be put into practice, after which I would not be allowed in the country, indefinitely.

I would be separated from Aaron and Claire for the foreseeable future.

After calls with my doctor in the States and my doctor in Grenada, I was assured that the simpler procedure could be done on island, and that it could wait. I also called the U.S. Embassy in Grenada – I knew that they were requiring anyone flying in to go into a 14-day quarantine, but would our boat be considered an acceptable place for self-isolation? I was told that it would. So, I booked flights for the next day. I touched down in Grenada less than two weeks after I’d left, 24 hours before I would have been locked out. I immediately went into quarantine.

Unfortunately, it meant that Aaron and Claire would also have to be quarantined, as there’s no way on our boat for me to isolate myself enough that they would not be exposed, if I had the virus. Given a one-day heads up to my arrival, Aaron fully stocked the boat with food, water, cooking gas, fuel, and whatever else we would need to ride out the time. However challenging that time would be, we were relieved to be together.

Claire’s birthday presents – a celebration to remember, that’s for sure!

We settled into a routine for the first week, counting down the days until we could see a few friends. We celebrated my 38th birthday under quarantine, and then Claire’s 8th. She understood that we’d have a party just the three of us on the day, and she’d have a little gathering with her friends on that magical Day 15. BUT. Then, Grenada instituted a soft emergency state. When people failed to comply, they strengthened it to a full lockdown. Starting at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 30, all are required to stay at their homes or on their boats for at least seven days. Supermarkets and gas stations are closed. Small grocery suppliers are allowed to operate on certain days and only during certain hours. There is no hour-long allowance to head to land to stretch your legs and exercise. Stay. Home. Period.

Magical Day 15, the completion of our quarantine, is no longer.

As I type this, all of the Caribbean islands have closed their ports to foreign vessels. For people wanting to return home, airports are closed, and they are forced to appeal to their local embassies to try and organize a repatriation flight, often to no avail. Over the past few weeks, some cruisers made the decision to sail from the island they were at to one that would still allow foreign vessels, only to learn that the doors were closed while they were on passage, and they were turned away.

Still, in some islands, foreign-flagged are now being told to leave with nowhere to go. If you do not comply, the coast guard escorts you out into the open sea. For many, decisions like this are made with immediate effect, no time to plan.

A sponsored message from the Grenadian Ministry of Health. No mincing of words here!

Here in Grenada, we are extremely lucky that foreign nationals have not been required to leave. We’ve thought about whether or not we should put the boat on the hard and return to the States to ride out this crisis. But the situation in the States worsens every day, with the peak weeks or a month away. The Grenadian government has taken extreme measures, but necessary and proactive ones to limit its spread. Plus, our home is here. Aaron’s potential for work is here. We need to stay here as long as we can.

We are also very fortunate that we are already below the required parallel for our boat to be insured during hurricane season. Many cruisers are now panicking, uncertain of when they will be allowed to move south (Grenada’s ports are officially closed for the foreseeable future). Hurricane season is not that far off, and they likely will not be insured, even in these extreme circumstances.

Of course, we have our own challenges – in addition to staying healthy.  Aaron’s work is at a standstill. My contract work is still feasible, but it’s a time when clients are understandably tightening their purse strings. Though our bills may be few comparatively, they are still bills that require income. We don’t know how long we can sustain this.

And what if Grenada decides to kick out all foreigners? It’s a small island with limited resources, and we understand the need for them to limit those resources to their own people should the virus spread further here. Nine cases and counting. We are praying that the measures they have already taken are enough.

I don’t share these challenges or perspectives to insinuate that ours are any worse than those faced by most everyone these days. There is not a single person that the novel coronavirus has not affected – through drastic changes to their daily lives, loss of jobs, loss of connection, and of course, loss of lives. With an uncertain future, that bright light at the end of this tunnel is unknown.

We are getting creative with our activities on board! Here’s a stuffed animal tea party, complete with brewed black tea, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and classical music playing in the background.

So, all we can do right now is try to find joy in our new normal, with the simple fact of being in good health being enough to celebrate. Our days on board are still pretty structured, with homeschooling, daily chores and boat projects that we are slowly but surely checking off the list. There’s also more dedicated family time, reading, catching up on shows and enjoying hobbies. And of course, more boat projects.

Right now, we can also listen. We can be aware of what’s happening around us, be aware of what we’re being asked to do, and we can comply.

All the best to you and yours.

Financial Realities: Two Years In

No money, mo’ problems! Okay, it’s not quite that simple.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in Grenada for three months already, though in many ways, we feel rooted here. This community, both cruisers and locals, is so welcoming, and each time we experience something new here, we understand why it’s a mecca for so many boaters.

But it’s also been a challenging few months, with a lot of introspection. Speaking frankly, Aaron and I have both been slaves to the almighty dollar, working hard to get some money in the bank, as our cruising reserves were sorely depleted when we dropped the hook here in July.

This has very much driven some tough conversations about what this upcoming cruising season would look like for us, or if there would even be one. But through some come-to-Jesus moments , we’ve realized how well we set ourselves up for cruising longevity with more than just dollars in the bank. More on that in a bit. First, how did we get here?

I have found that one of the most common misconceptions about this lifestyle is that it is cheap. It is definitely cheaper than living on land in the States, but at the same time, you’re not working a full-time job (or in many households, two full-time jobs) to support the family.

In many ways, this lifestyle has felt more like hemorrhaging money.

Typically, cruisers start out with a cruising kitty – money they saved while they were hatching their plan, to live off of while traveling. Others, like us, saved while also developing skills and businesses to allow us to work along the way. Sitting at our condo back in Oak Park, Ill., Aaron and I put together a spreadsheet of definite costs we knew we would incur each month: the (very) low-interest mortgage for whatever boat we purchased, cell phone and data plans to stay connected, groceries, general boat maintenance, and the initial refit costs for our next boat, as well as added in padding for the unknowns.

We also estimated a conservative income from working remotely (both he and I) and factored in money from the sale of our first boat, the Pearson 36-2, in Chicago. The proceeds from the sale of our condo and two cars would go toward purchasing the new boat.

Gorgeous St. George’s. It’s easy to set up camp in one place for awhile when it’s as beautiful as this is.

We thought we had ourselves pretty well set for two to three years of cruising, at least. However, when Clarity dropped anchor in Grenada back in July, our cruising kitty was completely gone, and we were actively living off of all that we are able to bring in each month, which needed to be more. This was due to a number of reasons.

First, our Pearson did not sell in a timely manner. As a result, not only did we not have the proceeds from the sale, but we continued to pay insurance, mortgage and storage fees on it, all while it depreciated in value. We were finally able to sign a contract this past spring, having to let her go at a price that was much lower than we would have liked. Not having the financial burden of her each month was the only “windfall.”

Clarity also managed to rack up unforeseen costs well into the tens of thousands, both seasons we’ve been out. We planned for boat maintenance and knew things would need to be replaced or updated when we purchased her, but the saildrive, and all of its associated costs, was a surprise. Then, replacing the entire rigging was another financial burden that came sooner than we thought.

Huge jobs like this not only add up in the parts, or even the labor, but the days on the hard, when we have to pay both for where the boat sits, and also for a place for us to live in the meantime. (Of course, this is always in beautiful Caribbean islands where the steady influx of vacationers kicks up the per-night rates.) Then, there’s the international shipping to get the parts wherever we are. The import taxes and customs fees. The list goes on and on.

So many amazing opportunities here thanks to the active cruising community! Here’s Claire and her friend Layla relaxing after a morning at sailing camp.

Other non-boat costs have been thrown into the mix, too. Medical bills we are still getting from Claire’s surgery to have the bean removed from her nose in the Bahamas. Unplanned flights back to the States for family emergencies. And a handful more.

The day-to-day of cruising is not what eats away at your bank account. It’s everything else.

Another factor for us is that, while we do have money in savings that’s smartly invested and actively managed, we are determined not to use it. We are determined to live within our means (income) and use what we have invested to help us transition into “the next chapter,” whatever and whenever that is. We also have a healthy college fund for Claire that we set up at least six years ago that has been steadily increasing, so no matter what we decide as a family in the coming years, we can support whatever path she decides for herself.

So, as our boat swayed in the steady trade winds here in southern Grenada, we had to seriously look at our finances and come up with a plan. Amazingly, after the “What are we going to do?” nights with some impressive wine consumption, we realized that the smart decisions we made three or four years ago, while living part time on our first sailboat, would pay for themselves tenfold now.

As many of you know, I’ve been doing contract editing ever since I had Claire, and I worked hard to cultivate relationships before we left that would allow me to bring in money as needed. The key was finding the right connections that would continue to jive with our fluid lifestyle, which was no small feat.

Also, while still working full-time, Aaron put in long hours on the side preparing himself for work that might prove beneficial while we sail. Over the course of two months of studying and classes at the U.S. Maritime Academy (and 15 years of on-the-water experience racing sailboats), he got his master captain’s license and then began working part time for a sailing school and charter business taking groups out sailing. He then studied to become a marine electrician, becoming American Boat and Yachting Council (ABYC)-certified, and set up his own business, Clarity Marine Systems. CMS took off quickly and successfully, with Aaron regularly working in yards and marinas in the Chicagoland area.

One of Clarity Marine’s biggest jobs completed in Chicago, the 70-foot racing sled on which Aaron did a complete re-wire.   (photo by Skyway Yacht Works)

To dig us out of our hole, so to speak, all we needed was some time in one place (hurricane season!) to allow us to draw on our skill sets more heavily. Here in Grenada, I increased my work load (again, so grateful to have cultivated relationships with clients that allow me to increase or decrease my docket as needed) and Aaron started to look into marine electrical work, which there has proven to be a bounty of here. We’ve started the process of re-establishing Clarity Marine Systems as a registered and insured Grenadian business, a requirement to legally work here. He’s been intentionally making his own connections with cruisers, marinas and boatyards in preparation for next year.

We are both very busy and tag-teaming homeschool with Claire, not to mention juggling one “car.” We are now in a position that we’re keeping a healthy family dynamic while slowly but surely building back our cruising kitty. We finally pulled out of the black hole our repairs in Puerto Rico put us in, are living comfortably off of what we make each month, and have started saving again.  But at least for the next month or so, we will stay in Grenada and continue at this pace.

As hurricane season wraps up, we could leave now and cruise on the money currently coming in, but it would require us to keep up the same pace we’re doing now while we are on the move, which would be exhausting and challenging. And truthfully, we want to enjoy the islands we visit, really dig in, rather than having to count every penny or feather in adventuring just on weekends. We want to rent cars and take tours and enjoy a nice meal occasionally and buy fun toys we would like. That is truly our happy place, making smart financial decisions, living small, but also allowing ourselves that flexibility.

Also, we just know there will be big-ticket boat items that will come up this season, as they have every season. We’ll likely need to replace our battery bank during the next year, which will cost thousands, and I’m sure that bell will toll sooner than we’d expect. We need to be financially prepared.

We’ve been going at a million miles an hour since we arrived here in Grenada, but we make sure family time is still our No. 1 priority.

Grenada has been an interesting culmination point for so many cruisers. We’ve seen several families put their boat on the hard and go back to ‘land’ to work for a few months or even a few years to replenish the cruising kitty. Some of them come back, but more often, the boat is put up for sale a year later. We’ve also seen so many “bon voyage” parties, the dream of sailing the world finished, and the crew ready to move on to the next chapter.

It’s also hard to hear when family members are not all on the same page about the decision – some want to keep sailing, but others don’t, so they’re forced to throw in the towel.

One thing I’m so grateful for is that Aaron and I are on the exact same page – we are not done cruising. We have not checked that box off. There is so much more to see. We are both fully invested in this lifestyle – we just want to do it in the way that makes the most sense for our family.

So, here’s the plan, as it stands right now. As cruising season gets in full swing, we’ll head north for an abbreviated season, hitting the islands we missed last season and spending more time in the ones we loved. I’ll keep working, but with a lighter workload, and Aaron will pick up jobs on boats as they present themselves along the way.

Then, we’ll get back down to Grenada early, before next hurricane season starts. This will allow Aaron finish setting up Clarity Marine Systems as a Grenadian business and be ready for the cruising and charter boats to start packing in.

Finally, after three months of a lot of work and a lot of stressful, hair-pulling, emotionally taxing conversations, we’ve come up with a plan that keeps us out on the water comfortably as a family, which is really my only priority. My only true goal, that trumps all the rest.

Let’s. Just. Keep. Doing. This.

Who can complain about a long day of work when you’re treated to breathtaking sunsets like these?!

 

Cruiser Friendships and This Lifestyle: Redefined

The Mayreau Crew! Hard to believe we just met these lovely friends a few weeks ago.

When we arrived in St. Anne, Martinique, we started a wonderfully rewarding chapter of meeting new cruisers that has continued as we head south. It’s made me think of how different it is, meeting new people in this lifestyle, than it was in my last. And it’s become an interesting lens into self-worth for me.

Don’t get me wrong – us cruisers have a set of standard questions: Where are you from? What type of boat are you sailing on? How long have you been out here? What are your plans?

Back in my previous life, I wouldn’t have asked where anyone was from – the answer, in most cases, was self-evident. And I wouldn’t have asked, “What type of house do you live in?” That was much too personal and in a way, beside the point. “How long do you plan on doing this?” If, by “this,” we meant this lifestyle, well, again, I think the answer was self-evident: Indefinitely.

But the one question I would always ask, and would always be asked, when meeting new people, was, “What do you do?” Though I do work part-time from the boat, I don’t often get asked that question, and if I do, it’s usually pretty far along into getting to know someone.

For the most part, this lifestyle is what we do. Day in, day out, on weekends. (What are those again? Right, those are when most of the stores are closed.) I started to think, if the lifestyle has taken the place of the job, what if we evaluate it using the same measuring stick? So here goes.

Does your job challenge you?

A resounding YES. Every day. Some days more than others, and sometimes to a point that cripples me. But always in a way that makes me stronger.

Is there the possibility of upward mobility?

Absolutely. Right now, Aaron is the captain of the boat and I am a knowledgeable first mate, but I need to become co-captain. I need to be able to sail our boat myself, to run our boat, completely on my own, not just comfortably, but confidently. This is far more than getting out of my comfort zone – that happened the day we moved aboard. I have so much more to learn, and even as captain, Aaron has said numerous times that there is always more to learn. There is no ceiling in this job.

Do you feel that you are compensated appropriately?

Financially, of course, the answer is laughable. Rather than even breaking even, you hemorrhage money in this lifestyle. Slowly (or oftentimes, way faster than you’d hoped), you chip away at whatever cruising kitty you saved before leaving. Budgets are your best friend. But let’s define compensation differently. How about in time spent with your family? In places that you get to travel to? In cultures that you are privileged to experience firsthand? Immeasurable.

Do you feel valued?

This is a tricky one. I’d love to say an immediate YES, but it’s more complicated than that, and I think Aaron would agree. We both value one another tremendously and two years in, we’ve settled into pretty clear roles. This doesn’t mean that my responsibilities don’t ever overlap with his, and vice versa, but in order to keep the ship moving, so to speak, there is a natural division of labor. But the gray area lies in playing both roles: the role of spouse, and the role of colleague or fellow employee, because when you’re sailing, it’s a different dynamic.

For instance, when you’ve had a huge victory, or even a huge defeat, you seek words of affirmation or comfort from your spouse. But your fellow employee may recognize it and quickly move on to the next task – and in the moment, this focus may be what’s needed most. Aaron and I are getting better at recognizing when to favor a certain role over the other.

Do we feel valued by Claire? That’s simple. When we are making a point to sync up with other kid boats, when we are hiking mountains and playing on the beach and indulging in ice cream in town? Of course! During school each day? Perhaps not. Oh, right – a third role Aaron and I have had to assume. Teacher.

Do you ever feel like you want to quit?

YES. Obviously not all the time, and I think that the key in any lifestyle or job is that the good parts outweigh the bad. As you all know, there are plenty of times, at the end of a hard day, that we want to throw in the towel. A few times, we have very seriously considered it. But the balance for us overall is still tilting pretty heavily to the good.

Do you feel fulfilled?

If I’m being completely honest, this has sometimes been a hard one for me. Up until I had Claire, I was fully dedicated to my career. It defined me. And the missions I worked to uphold were laudable ones. Produce a publication that enriched and bettered the lives of those who read it. Manage a website and digital presence that allowed healthcare executives to access materials and reach a community that would help them succeed at their jobs. Help small businesses establish the e-media presence they needed to take their brands to the next level.

As I mentioned, I do work part-time, and I enjoy it. I feel blessed to be able to continue a job that allows me the flexibility to pursue this lifestyle while creating income to support it. But my work no longer defines me.

My mission now? My family. My marriage. And, again, if I’m being honest, my own happiness. It still feels like saying that last part is selfish. Since we left, I’ve struggled here and there with feelings of guilt, of thinking, what purpose does this life really serve? Who am I benefitting with this, other than my family?

Even though I hardly hear it anymore, that resounding question of, “What do you do?” is still there, in the back of my thoughts, a bit louder on nights like tonight, when I can’t sleep and my mind decides to throw me the curveballs I’ve been dodging. Why does living life solely for our family sometimes feel like a luxury we are indulging? Why, so often, is traveling as a family viewed as a luxury, and not a necessity? And why is putting yourselves first, measured by quality of life rather than income, often viewed as irresponsible?

If this lifestyle defines us, what is the ultimate goal? Can it be as simple as wanting to create the best life for Claire, of opening her mind and expanding her horizons, and wanting to witness to it all?

Beautiful Bequia in the Grenadines was our office, so to speak, for a week or so.

I was chatting with a couple of friends on the beach the other day, and as much as we were joking, we were discussing serious topics, too. It felt like I had known them for a long time, when in reality, we met just three weeks prior. You hear this a lot about cruising: friendships form quickly and you become quite close in a short period of time.

Some of it is proximity – you’re in the same place and you spend a lot of time together. But I think, too, you just get to what matters more quickly. We’re all generally “doing” the same thing. Your guard is almost always down going in, you’re not afraid to be vulnerable, because you know everyone is struggling with the same challenges you are.

Challenges like, is the overall scale still favoring the good? Is my family happy? Am I happy?

We are just shy of two years in now, and this past year was a hell of a ride. If we’re up for review, how do I think I performed this year? As best I could, but there’s always room for improvement. Goals for this coming year? More of the same.

Where do I see myself in five years? Right. Here.